Friday, March 28, 2014

Unplugged: Celebrating Healthy Children and Strong Families

Next week is the Museum’s annual gala fundraiser, Unplugged – The Way to Play. This year, the fun and festive event celebrates healthy children and strong families and honors community leaders who support the well-being of kids and families. Three of these leaders shared the ways they liked to play as children, and their reflections on how those play experiences contributed to the work they do now.

Elizabeth Burke Bryant – Executive Director, RI Kids Count
My favorite ways to play included paper dolls on the back porch (the paper doll folders were the houses for the paper doll inhabitants), wiffle ball on our street with neighborhood children, sledding in the winter, and hide and go seek in the summer.

All of the neighborhood games taught me how to get along with others, how to get organized, and how to give it all I had. The other kinds of games like paper dolls were played with individuals who became life-long friends, and that taught me the importance of finding friends and colleagues that are a joy to be with, because the journey through life and work is best when you can share it with wonderful people.

Dr. Rajiv Kumar – Founder/CEO, ShapeUp
I was lucky to grow up in a safe and spacious neighborhood chock full of other kids my age. We spent our days after school, on weekends, and during summers riding bikes, roller-blading, building forts, playing kick ball, and swimming at the local pool club, which was just a short bike ride through the woods behind one of our neighbor’s houses. On summer evenings our favorite activities were running around trying to catch fireflies or playing hide-and-seek in the dark (yes, we were scared!). We looked forward to winter so we could go sledding, ice skating, skiing and build igloos in the snow. When I have kids one day, I truly hope that they can experience the same kind of magical and carefree childhood that I did, centered around outdoor activities and social games.

I benefited from a playful childhood, and that experience that has stuck with me and lies at the very heart of the work that I do. I truly believe that the pathway to a healthier nation – starting with a healthier generation of young people – lies in an approach to well-being that puts fun activities, healthy games, and social support front and center. That’s what we do at ShapeUp, and it appears to be working!

Wendy Nilsson – Executive Director, Partnership for Providence Parks
As a kid I played by creating. I made make-believe worlds out of anything. I nailed planks to apple trees to make an arboreal world high above the everyday, using the rotten apples to defend my lair; turned a deep snowfall into a village of snow pods connected by narrow paths and surrounded by spent cat o’ nine tails; led a kingdom where the castle was under the protection of the arching boughs of a willow tree, and I am quite certain, an alien. I loved to make or transform stuff more than playing with things as they were intended. My Barbies and Sunshine Family were the first to get pierced ears with push pins, have their hair dyed pitch black with mascara and sport newly fashioned outfits from crochet and fabric scraps. I loved to make art and articulate the worlds and characters that amused me, and I enjoyed inviting others to be a part of the play.

As a kid, I was making places out of spaces, which is what I do now for parks. Along with an incredible team, I bring together neighbors, businesses, schools and others to help revitalize the amazing array of parks and green spaces in Providence.  Just as when I was a child, we do our best to use materials and resources creatively. We make communities where children can gather and play out roles that are limited only by imagination. I guess I have been in training for this job a long time!

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